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Ferry great value-packed day trips

If you’re looking for a change of scene and an affordable way to get that holiday feeling, then a day trip by ferry transports you away from the every day. Relax on board with your travel companions, grab a coffee and look out at the spectacular views. You might even spot some wildlife!

The Thames, London, where the journey is the experience!

See Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Cutty Sark, the Royal Naval College and The O2 in Greenwich and the Thames Barrier from the best viewpoint and all in the same day. The family River Roamer ticket with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers lets you hop on and hop off the River Bus service as much as you want and up to 3 children travel for free with the family ticket. Combine with free entry into museums such as Queen’s House, Royal Maritime Museum, Museum of London’s Docklands and the Tate galleries or a wander through Greenwich Park or Battersea Park and you’ll have a great value day out!

Family River Roamer day tickets cost £44.20 for 2 adults and up to 3 children (Aged 5-15. Children under 5 travel free of charge.)

Pre-historic stone circles, the ruins of a medieval church, listed loos and secluded beaches on the Isle of Bute

Rothesay, Isle of Bute

Just 35 mins from Wemyss Bay in the Firth of Clyde, and an easy train ride from Glasgow, the Isle of Bute is the most accessible of Scotland’s islands. There are plenty of free activities for a day trip and Caledonian MacBrayne’s Road Equivalent Pricing means it is purse-friendly too. Bring your bicycles on board for free and you’ll be able to see even more of the island.

Arrive at Rothesay harbourside and make a quick stop at the listed loos. The Victorian gents’ toilets have marble furnishings, mosaic floors and decorative ceramic tiled walls and are testament to the longevity of Victorian design. As a functioning public convenience, ladies wanting to take a peek can ask the attendant to knock on the door first.

Head south to Kingarth where to explore the beautifully preserved ruins of St Blane’s church. The nave and part of the chancel date from the 12th century. The church has an upper and lower churchyard where men and women were buried respectively. Pre-dating St Blane, the pre-historic stone circle – The Devil’s Cauldron – can also be visited.

End your day with a walk along the secluded beach of Scalpsie Bay from where you can see stunning views across to Arran. It’s also home to a resident seal colony!

An adult return ticket to Rothesay from Wemyss Bay costs £7.60 with Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries. All other activities mentioned are free of charge.

Get the most out of a day on the Isle of Wight

Bembridge Pier © Visit Isle of Wight

Passenger ferry services to the Isle of Wight are quick and frequent and all have rail connectivity, allowing you to make the most of your day on the island, without the need for a car. If you like getting around by bicycle you can even bring your bike on board, free of charge.

Hovertravel, the only scheduled passenger hovercraft service in Europe, is the fastest way to arrive on the Isle of Wight. The service from Southsea to Ryde takes just 10 minutes and is a unique experience in its own right. Feel the skirt inflate before ‘flying’ at speed above the waters of the Solent.  

FastCat services from Portsmouth to Ryde Pier with Wightlink take 22 minutes and RedJet services from Southampton to Cowes with Red Funnel take less than 30 minutes.

The island has lots of free activities including exploring its many beaches and coves, searching for dinosaur fossils (the Isle of Wight is the richest source of dinosaur remains in Europe) along the coast between Compton and Atherfield and spotting red squirrels in the woodlands.

For a bit of history visit the ancient former lighthouse, St Catherine’s Oratory and Appuldurcombe House, a partly restored 18th century baroque mansion with grounds designed by Capability Brown.

Discover more about the great work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, who are celebrating their 200th anniversary this year, at Bembridge Lifeboat Station. It is classed as a RNLI ‘discover’ station, where volunteers give you a tour of the station and is located at the end of the Bembridge’s iconic pier.

The award-winning Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary is a great place to meet, interact and learn more about the donkeys, ponies and mules that have been given a home by the sanctuary. There are free tours available, but if you want to contribute to the work of the charity you can also book activities such as grooming and pampering.

Adult day return tickets cost between £12.90-£31.50 on Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink.
Family day return tickets (for 2 adults and 3 children) cost £78 on
Hovertravel, £44.90 with Red Funnel and from £57.50 with Wightlink.

Bonjour Calais

Calais Dragon

With France being a mere 90 minutes away from the Port of Dover, anyone based in the Southeast can easily experience the French lifestyle on a day trip for a fraction of the price of a holiday and make savings on Duty-Free and on your favourite French goodies.  

Calais makes an ideal day trip destination. It has a lovely sandy beach with traditional beach huts and the promenade has been modernised to include a skatepark, the fire-breathing Calais Dragon and a variety of restaurants where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch. The Calais Dragon can be seen making its way along the promenade or you can book a ride for €9.50 for adults and €7.50 for children.

Calais Hôtel de Ville and its UNESCO Belfry are not to be missed. At the front of the town hall you can admire the Auguste Rodin sculpture The Burghers of Calais and from the Belfry there are great views of the town.

Of course, a trip to France would not be complete without stocking up on cheese and wine and there are plenty of opportunities in Calais to indulge so you can fill your boot.

A day trip for a car and up to 4 passengers costs £39 with DFDS, £43 with P&O Ferries and includes 6 bottles of wine. Irish Ferries has a short break fare available for stays of up to 3 days for £98.

4-hours in…..

St Mary’s, the Isles of Scilly

Scilly-St. Mary’s-little girl sitting on a rock overlooking Porthcressa Beach © Visit Isles of Scilly

Cornwall is one of the UKs most popular holiday destinations, however few holidaymakers know that the Isles of Scilly are within easy reach on a daytrip from Penzance. Early sailings leave Penzance at 09:15 arriving in St Mary’s by noon, giving visitors 4-hours to spend exploring the 2.54 square miles of St Mary’s.

For a budget-friendly day out, walk from the quayside to the Garrison Wall to explore the old fortifications of the island, stop off in Hugh Town for a bite to eat or bring your own picnic to eat on Porthmellon or Porthcressa beach, before or after a dip! If there’s time, the lighthouse at Peninnis Head is well worth the 30 minutes’ walk.

Marine wildlife charity ORCA has named the crossing from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly as the ferry route with the UK’s highest diversity route for wildlife spotting. Over 600 common dolphins were spotted in 2023 so keep your eyes peeled! Also don’t miss local landmarks such as Land’s End and the Minack Theatre. The journey is definitely part of the trip.

Day return tickets on the Scillonian III cost from £35 for adults (Age 12 and over) and £17.50 for children (2-11) with Isles of Scilly Travel

Guernsey, the Channel Islands

Victor Hugo’s Hauteville House © Visit Guernsey

The crossing with Condor Ferries fast ferry service from Poole to Guernsey takes 3 hours, with great views of Brownsea Island, Sandbanks and the Dorset coastline as you leave England’s white cliffs behind. Have breakfast on board and make the most of Duty-Free shopping savings. Sailings leave in the morning, so you’ll arrive in St Peter’s Port around noon during weekdays, or earlier at the weekend.

Once in St Peter’s Port, you can explore the winding streets of the island’s capital. Guernsey offers tax-free shopping so there are plenty of opportunities to save on gadgets and goods. Take in the spectacular views from Candie Gardens over the neighbouring islands. A walk to the south of the town will bring you to Vallette Bathing Pools, a cluster of tidal pools built 150 years ago for safe swimming.

Although not a free attraction, art lovers won’t want to miss Hauteville House, where writer and poet Victor Hugo spent his exile and wrote many of his masterpieces, including Les Misérables. The house itself is a work of art and was designed by Victor Hugo himself.

If you’d prefer to save your pennies and visit a quirkier work of art, then take the bus to the Little Chapel, a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica in Lourdes, France. Brother Deodat started creating the chapel in 1914 but demolished it twice before you building the version which still stands today.

An adult day-return to Guernsey with Condor Ferries costs £38. A day return for 2 adults and 2 children costs £132.

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